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Why 'Waste' Money on Interpretation? - Interpretation Solutions Limited

admin 24th September 2019 No Comments

Simultaneous Interpreters working in booths at Canon ViennaImagine if you will that you have a keen amateur interest in (let’s say) rocket science. You have no training or education in the subject but it really piques your interest. In fact, so much so that you decide to attend a conference where the latest developments in rocket science will be introduced.


Imagine then your disappointment when you realise that you can barely understand a word being spoken. Lights flash massive gantries, sound booms from banks of speakers, new developments appear from behind clouds of smoke an pyrotechnics, speakers appear on huge video walls, rocket scientists in the audience whoop with delight (I did say use imagination) but the language is so technical that, beyond the special effects, most of the meaning is lost to you.


While this example is far-fetched, imagine something more mundane. You are a Polish based European distributor for an Asian company producing high tech products.. You are invited, along with other European distributors, to an event where there new models will be presented for the first time. It will be presented in English, of which you speak a little, but you are far from fluent. The company has decided, on the grounds of cost, not to include simultaneous interpretation. They will, however, have some bi lingual members of staff present to try and help. Now, perhaps, yo know how our ‘amateur rocket scientist’ felt.


There is no doubt that conference and event interpretation is expensive. Experience and qualified interpreters will have arrived in the conference booth at the end of a lengthy process of education and training, spread across many years and will charge a fee that recognises the investment they have made in their own development. Simultaneous interpreters requires levels of concentration that most of us can only dream of. They work in pairs, not because it is nice to but because that level of concentration is impossible to maintain for any length of time. Interpreters are limited in number and it may be necessary to have them travel considerable distances to attend an event.  They will usually need to arrive in the venue city the evening before an event to ensure they are ready to start on time and this involves accommodation costs. Again, this is not a ‘nice to do’ option but often essential. Quite recently, I spent a very uncomfortable morning looking at cancelled and delayed flights, fearing I might have a booth empty at the start of an event, all because the client had no accommodation budget.


But, is interpretation comparatively expensive? AIIC have suggested some costs per delegate for a major conference set out in the able below

Cost of Simultaneous Interpretation per participant per day, in US dollars

Participants 2 languages 3 languages 4 languages
100 35 89 119
200 18 45 60
300 13 30 40
400 10 23 30
500 8 18 24

AIIC. “How much will it cost”. November 28, 2011. Accessed September 24, 2019.


So, potentially as little as $8 per delegate. Now look at that in the context of the several truckloads of light and sound equipment your production company will arrive with or even the cost of meals and refreshment for delegates. Those may be a key part of the presentation but what does interpretation provide?


We would suggest clarity of understanding, greater participations and potentially a larger attendance and a far more successful event. Can you really put a price on these?

About the author:

Steve McSorley is a former senior police officer and now Managing Director of Interpretation Solutions Ltd.

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